18:31 GMT +321 August 2019
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    Fort Ross official says historic Russian site in California to remain open

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    Fort Ross, built in 1812 in California by Russian settlers, is set to remain open as a state park despite problems with financing, a park official said.

    Fort Ross, built in 1812 in California by Russian settlers, is set to remain open as a state park despite problems with financing, a park official said.

    Over 150,000 tourists visit Fort Ross every year. According to the government of the U.S. state of California, the park annually needs $300,000-$800,000 in order to normally operate and receive visitors.

    The site, which has been facing closure due to spending cuts aimed at closing the huge budget deficit, is still working, mainly due to private donations and funding from Russia.

    "Although many state parks here in our Sonoma County are scheduled to be closed down totally within the next year, luckily we have escaped such a fate," Hank Birnbaum, Park Interpretive Specialist for Fort Ross State Historic Park, said.

    Birnbaum told RIA Novosti that the park's problems attracted much media attention recently, including from Russia, partly because next year is the bicentennial of the founding of Fort Ross.

    "Thanks to that attention some funding from Russia (especially the Renova Fort Ross Foundation) and other sources is beginning to come through, which likely kept us off the 'chopping block,'" he said.

    Fort Ross, around 120 kilometers (80 miles) north of San Francisco, was founded under a tsarist charter by the Russian-American Company, a commercial hunting and trading company, and was used for three decades. In 1841, it was sold to John Sutter, a Mexican citizen of Swiss origin. Later the land was turned over to the state of California for preservation and restoration as a state historic monument.

    The Fort Ross State Historic Park was established in 1906 and includes the restored Rotchev House, built around 1836 for the administrator of the outpost and a reconstruction of the first Russian Orthodox church in the Americas south of Alaska.

    "Fort Ross State Historic Park (and thus our chapel) is currently only open now on weekends and some holidays," Birnbaum said.

    "Nonetheless, we'd like to be open everyday. And, I believe, a chapel's doors should always be open!" he said.

    The park official said support to Fort Ross came from the California government, the California State Park Foundation and other organizations.

    "Renova Fort Ross Foundation... promised sustained effort to help us," he said.

    The Renova Fort Ross Foundation is a public charitable organization established in 2010 by leading Russian business group Renova to provide support to the Fort Ross State Park. Its mission is to promote the preservation and raise awareness of Fort Ross.

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